Today 100 years ago the Royal Assent was given to allow the first women to vote.
Of course it was only one step on a longer journey towards equality that we are still on. Particularly for women of colour, disabled women, lesbian, bi and transgender women and for working class women the fight for equality goes on.
However, as we continue to struggle for equality it is worth pausing and celebrating the changes over the last 100 years and recognise what our sisters who went before us – and their male allies – achieved.
There is no room for complacency but by looking at how far we have come we can gain strength to continue to challenge injustice. We can also draw lessons from the suffrage and suffragette movements. One lesson I draw is that the cause united people across class and across geography – ladies maids lent their clothing to enable their mistresses to attend events incognito, at least one high born suffragette gave a false name to avoid special treatment. The movement didn’t stop until women had an equal francise with men.
It is also another reason I am so proud of being a member of the Cooperative movement – the Coop Women’s guild played a key part in all of this, alongside the trade unions.
Here in Reading I’m really excited to be coordinating events this year that will include debate, celebration and campaigning for women’s rights and to encourage voting. If you are on facebook this is the best place to keep up to date. I am particularly looking forward to today’s dance and debate led by Reside – if you are in Reading town centre at 5.30 near John Lewis come and watch